Modern Mother’s Day

As a doula I have the special privilege of seeing the truth in pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.  Families will share things with me that they keep hidden away from the rest of the world because they know that I am coming from a place of support and free from judgement.  That truth is something that most people keep tucked away, they bury it deep down inside them and rarely share it with anyone, even themselves. Parenting is not only hard work, but it can feel overwhelming. The thought that you might be swimming upstream forever as the days and nights blend together in a broken sleep cycle.  Our modern culture tells us that we must not only do it all, but look good and enjoy every moment.  Snap back to yourself and be ready, chipper and active no later than 6 weeks postpartum.  The truth that is hiding in all this, is not that this is incredibly hard, we know that though it’s rarely spoken out loud  The truth is that it’s actually impossible because we were never meant to do this alone.

Did you know that the latest statistics show 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum mood disorder, and 1 in 10 men. The researchers actually believe it’s higher than that but we aren’t catching everybody because many remain silent.   We are expecting so much from new parents and offering very little support.  It seems that our societal demands on families have increased while the support networks have significantly decreased.   When our ancestors raised children they were living in a society that came together to help each other.  Extended family often lived in the same area and “the village” really was a thing.  Help rarely needed to be asked for, it was just expected that everyone would come together to support the new parents. There was a great connection between everyone, a connection that is very different than the one our current technology creates.  This connection was real and raw, you saw all the parts of someone, not just the joyful moments.  There was no Instagram filter to make the dried spit up on your shoulder less noticeable.  Your community knew your struggle, but also they stepped in to support. Rather than a push to “get back to normal” they had a priority and respect for rest and healing.  Sadly, the village is mostly gone and replaced by networks, wires, filters, and glorifying the over scheduled life.  

If you are that parent who is striving to appear as if you have it all together please don’t feel bad about this.  I’m not trying to shame anyone, but the truth I know as a doula is that you aren’t alone and I wanted to you know that.  I have seen the most beautiful Facebook family and I know that they are having their fair share of tears, struggle, guilt, and loneliness.  I want to create the possibility that we let things go and try being real. This Mother’s Day, I want to encourage you to listen to the part of yourself that is screaming “this is so hard” and follow that truth by asking yourself what you really need.  Maybe you don’t know what you need, in that case just listen to yourself, talk to a friend, write in a journal, but give that feeling some space.  Don’t tuck it away and bury it under a filter and a smile.  

There are new parent support groups and warm lines that you can call for peer-to-peer support. You don’t have to be depressed or have a diagnosis or mood disorder  to call these numbers, they are for any new parent who could benefit from talking to someone.  

Asking for help (even if it’s just a listening ear) is so important. When we do this we are modeling to our children that they too can ask for help and communicate their needs and feelings. When you ask for help this also creates an opportunity for someone else to feel needed and useful, as well as the opening for them to be vulnerable with you or someone else.  When we ask for help we are creating real connection. This helps everyone involved become more attached and secure.  As that security deepens within us it allows us to create stronger bonds and support with our children.

Think of it this way, There is a tree that is being watered and nourished just enough to stay alive.  Someone comes along and hangs a swing on one of the branches, someone else starts to build a treehouse on another branch, and another decides to climb it.  That tree is going to have a very hard time continuing to stand upright.  It looks really sturdy to all the people building and swinging and climbing it, but the tree knows that it’s roots aren’t getting what they need. It silently stands knowing all the while that those roots aren’t deep enough to sustain the life that is climbing all around it and that tree is going to fall over.   

The more you ask for help and take care of yourself the more you nourish your roots and feed your soul.  You aren’t alone in the struggle of being a modern mom, and I encourage you to listen to yourself and challenge the expectations of the modern mother.

 

For Support in Lane County Visit www.wellmamaoregon.org

For Support Anywhere visit www.postpartum.net

Tips for Doulas

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum then I know that you don’t really have much time to read this.  Maybe you are thinking of becoming a doula but unsure if you can make it work with your family, or maybe you already are a doula and have been wading through the guilt and meltdowns as you are gone for hours.   I want to share some tips with you that worked for my family and I encourage everyone to comment and leave your own tips because we can learn so much from each other.   I recognize that each child is unique and the very word “spectrum” entails a wide range of unique delights and challenges.

  1. Weekly calendar of each days plan-  You can include the name of the person they will be with or the place they will go.   If your child doesn’t read then you can have a picture of symbol assigned to each person. Make sure it’s large enough to see easily and in a room where they can easily access it.  Lots of spectrum children are very visual and being able to view it as often as they need to can calm them down.  Not knowing what is coming up next is a common cause for anxiety.
  2. Verbally tell them each morning- You wrote down the plan on the calendar, but a reminder in the morning before they head to school, or at breakfast before you start your day.  Just a quick, “remember that today is Auntie day, so if my client calls me then Auntie will pick you up from school.”
  3.  Share the Plan- Be sure the other family members in your home know the plan so they aren’t forced to come up with a different plan in your absence. You may not be able to answer your phone or receive a text if the labor is very intense when they try to reach you. (This tip is from my husband who may have dealt with more than one meltdown from changing the plan because I forgot to tell him what it was.) 
  4. Special Treats- I am not above bribery.  This could be a treat while you are away, like watching a favorite movie, ordering pizza or favorite food, perhaps a special fidget or weighted pillow that only comes out when you are away.  The point is that they can look forward to this treat happening once you do go to the birth so they aren’t dreading you being called to the birth.
  5. Reliable Childcare- We all know that when plans change it can end in enormous and long meltdowns.  Be sure that you have care arranged from someone who isn’t going to flake and also someone who knows how to care for your child’s unique needs.  This may mean that you are paying an on-call nanny, or perhaps you have rock solid friends who you trade with.  I wouldn’t recommend relying completely on your spouse if you plan to doula as a career because they can only miss work so many times before it’s a problem.   Think you can’t afford childcare?  Guess what, you aren’t charging enough.  Raise your rates so that it doesn’t cost YOU to attend a birth.  Even doulas who are working toward certification can charge for their services.  (You may be able to get care through state services if your child has an official diagnosis of ASD.) 
  6. Self Care- You know that on-call nanny I mentioned above? Maybe you use her for an extra hour or two for yourself (or a date with your partner) the day after a birth.  Being the parent of a child with autism can be both emotionally and physically draining.  Guess what, being a doula can do the same thing.  Be sure that you are taking time to fill yourself back up after a birth.  Chances are good that you will be hyper right after the birth (even if it was 24 hours long) but once the adrenaline runs out of your system take some time to recharge.   Maybe you skip the nanny and instead your kid binge watches Dora The Explorer while you have a cup of tea and read a book.  Whatever you have to do to make some self care time happen, it will be the thing that keeps you able to continue doula work for years and years.

 

This may seem like a lot to do just to go to a birth but try not to get overwhelmed.  The thing is, that parents of kids on the spectrum actually make incredible doulas.  They are already used to tuning in to another person’s needs, a person who may not be into verbal conversation.  During labor, many people go into that instinctual part of their brain and are no longer up for talking or answering questions.  You will need to tune into them, to see their needs rather than hear them.

Many kids on the spectrum are overwhelmed by their own emotions and have trouble making since of them or knowing what to do next.  If you have ever seen someone in the transition stage of labor then you may have seen anger, fear, sadness, and many other emotions emerge and often this can be overwhelming and scary to the person experiencing it.  “Why am I crying, I am sorry, I don’t know why this is happening.”  I hear it often at births, and you most likely already have skills to help them through this to accept the emotions and even the tears coming out of them.  Meltdowns and Transition are very similar, a loss of control and overwhelming emotion.  Your personal experience of being a parent is going to be such a benefit to your clients.

I hope this was helpful to you. Please leave comments of things that have worked for you or your child as you pursued your career as a doula.